Opening Statement: Chairwoman Walorski Nutrition Subcommittee Hearing: Improving Innovation and Success in Employment and Training Programs
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
Good morning and welcome to today’s Nutrition Subcommittee hearing. Thank you to everyone for being here and thank you, in particular, to our witnesses for your participation and valuable insights.
We are continuing the series of hearings looking at the past, present, and future of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, by examining employment and training, or E&T, programs. While we know that a job is the surest way to get out of poverty, it can be difficult for individuals to find a job that matches their skills, or to gain the skills needed to fill the jobs available in an area. This is why Congress created employment and training components in various welfare programs to help low-income individuals obtain the skills and training they need to find and keep a job.
SNAP E&T and other workforce training programs exist to ensure that the safety net is a temporary stop for able-bodied adults. They build up valuable skills. They lend a helping hand to those bouncing back from adversity. Each state SNAP E&T plan is approved and overseen by USDA. States are required to operate a SNAP E&T program and have considerable flexibility to tailor their state’s program to their specific needs and economic circumstances. Among the services SNAP E&T programs offer are job search training, work training, educational programs, and job retention. Some states operate their programs with mandatory participation, while others make it voluntary. Some coordinate their workfare programs through one central agency, while others are more separated.
Recognizing the transformative impact that a job can have on someone trying to lift himself or herself out of poverty, the 2014 Farm Bill authorized SNAP E&T pilot projects to test innovative strategies. In March 2015, the USDA awarded ten states grants that carry rigorous reporting and evaluation requirements in order to ensure quality, evidence-based information. We are fortunate to have representatives from three of the ten states here today. Though the final evaluation of the pilots is not anticipated until 2021, today’s hearing will be useful to learn what factors influenced each state’s pilot design, what strategies are being tested, and how these states intend to utilize the pilot results within their core E&T services offered by the state.
I want to close my remarks with one final point. Our safety net programs are indispensable, but for those that are able to work, the safety net should be a temporary stop and not a final destination. This is a something that has been echoed by Republicans and Democrats alike. In his second State of the Union address, Franklin Delano Roosevelt told Congress, “Work must be found for able-bodied but destitute workers.” He extolled not only the obvious financial benefits of a job, but also the benefits to the mind, body, and spirit as well. And while President Roosevelt took a government-centric approach to creating jobs, the core principle behind it remained: if you can work, you should work.
Today, we will examine programs that help those who can work secure and keep a job and look at new, innovative approaches to make these programs more effective.
I thank each of our witness again for being here and I look forward to hearing from you.